A southeast Missouri man who frequently played Santa Claus during the Christmas season has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for sexually abusing a 6-year-old girl.

The Southeast Missourian reports that 57-year-old Jeffrey Moffat of Jackson entered an Alford plea Monday to a charge of first-degree statutory sodomy and was sentenced by Cape Girardeau County Judge Fred Copeland. An Alford plea acknowledges substantial evidence but does not admit guilt.

Prosecutors say Moffat was a baby sitter for the child and abused her at his home in 2014 and 2015.

Moffat played Santa on the Iron Mountain Railway's Polar Express for about two decades. He was not accused of committing any crime while he acted as Santa.

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